Definition of Human Communication
In its most simple form, human communication is how two or more individuals send and receive messages. However, human communication is very complex and includes many different variables. There are theories of human communication that attempt to define and explain the levels, components, and variables of how this complex process is achieved.
Whether communication is verbal or nonverbal, there are three essential aspects. They are transmission of information, the meaning of that transmission, and the behavioral effects of the transmission of the information (Johnson, 1989 p. 62). Information transmission is the actual sending and receiving of messages. This transmission, through the feedback process, which is intrapersonal in nature, affects each of the individuals involved in the process.
Communication occurs on different levels. Not only does it occur intrapersonally, it also occurs interpersonally, in small and large groups, and in organizational and public arenas. The human communication process is comprised of components which have been clearly defined by Wenburg and Wilmot. The Wenburg and Wilmot communication model is based on the sender transmitting messages to the receiver affected by feedback, noise, encoding and decoding, the medium of transmission, the setting in which the process takes place, message variables including verbal and nonverbal communication, and the communication skills of the sender and receiver (Wenburg and Wilmot, 1973 p. 17).
The sender is the individual who encodes and transmits the message. The receiver is the individual who receives and decodes the message. During the human communication process feedback is continuously occurring. Feedback refers to the interpretation of the message from the sender to the receiver and depends on the level of comprehension and perceived meaning of the message.
Noise also has a direct effect on communication because of its ability to impair accurate transmission of the message being sent. Media refers to the channels in which a message is carried. Messages can be carried to a receiver via oral communication, written communication, and visual communication.
The setting refers to the physical location in which messages are sent and received. Individuals communicating may or not be in the same physical location which also has an affect on how messages are received. For example, if individuals communicating are able to visualize each other they will be able to also communicate nonverbally. On the other hand, if individuals are not able to visualize and hear one another, such as communicating via email, there may be misinterpretation of messages due to the inability to convey tone of voice, emphasis on words or phrases, and nonverbal expressions and gestures.
Verbal communication includes spoken and written language. The content of the language used is the heart of the message being sent. In addition, with the use of language there are two components, diction and syntax, which have a direct effect on the transmission of a message. Diction refers to the choice of words used to communicate while syntax refers to the order of the words or phrases used to convey a certain message (Gillette, 2007 p. 3). Facial expressions, gestures, posture, and visual appearance refer to nonverbal communication. These message variables can enhance communication or hinder communication depending on the lack of one variable or the incongruence of the two when used together.
Superficially, human communication appears to be a simple process. However, there are many variables that affect the sending and receiving of messages. Not only do the variables and communication attributes discuss impact of the overall process, there is the issue of how the intended message is interpreted and understood by the receiver. We as human beings are extremely complex in nature and how we communicate is just as complex. Understanding human communication and its implications are vital to applying and improving intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, and organizational communication processes within the chaotic business world in which we work today.
Gillette, J. E. (2007). ICS 602-Human communication: Course syllabus. (p. 3).
Johnson, B. S. (1993). Psychiatric-Mental health nursing: Adaptation and growth.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company.
Wenburg, J. R. & Wilmot W. M. (1973). The personal communication process. New
York: John Wiley & Sons.